All posts tagged: pets corner

Pet’s corner: Teaching your dog ‘leave’

The leave command, also known as ‘dog zen’, is possibly the most important command of all. ‘Leave’, as distinct from ‘drop’, tells the dog to disengage from an object, another animal or a human, on cue. The importance of ‘leave’ is that it teaches the dog to control its instinctive urge to move towards things that it wants or things that it dislikes and for owners this can become a powerful and incredibly useful tool. A solid ‘leave’ should be essential puppy training, up there with an instant ‘sit’, beautiful lead manners and an impeccable recall. There are different ways to teach this command and most trainers will have a preference. However, the essential aim is to teach the dog that a tiny disengagement (averting its eyes momentarily or looking away) earns a reward. Once the dog understands this principle the owner can then begin to ask for more of the required behaviour before a reward is delivered. Here is an example of how to teach the first stage of ‘leave’. Hold a treat on …

Pets Corner: Working your dog’s nose

Last month we looked at the importance of play for pets. This time I want to focus on the dog and in particular his amazing sense of smell. It might be said that a dog ‘sees’ through its nose. Humans are primarily a sound and vision species, we rationalise our environment using eyes and ears. For instance, we recognise people by how they look and sound. Not so dogs, they recognise each other primarily via a signature scent and use smell to make sense of the world around them. Dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors to our 6 million. They have a specialist smell analysis organ in the roof of the mouth and use tail wags to broadcast personal scent information from their anal glands. This is why dogs that go blind or deaf can actually adjust quite well, because their premier sense is still intact. Our forefathers used dogs to hunt, track and forage – anything from truffles to an escaped convict was located in this way. Today we still employ the dog’s powerful …

Pet’s Corner: Can You Train Your Cat?

Most of us tend to view cats as untrainable creatures, utterly independent, only doing what they want when they want. As the old adage goes, ‘dogs have owners; cats have staff’. However, evidence is emerging that cats are trainable and it may well be in the cat owner’s interests to give it a go. Owners should first recognise that you cannot train a cat the way you might a dog. Cats evolved from a solitary species and consequently learn in a different way. Dogs are highly social so their need to be part of the group overrides the negative effects of social punishment and they always look for ways to please us. A cat cannot learn this way. Treat them mean, with verbal chastisement or even water sprays and they’ll just hate you and either avoid you like the plague or lash out with claws and teeth. Nonetheless, like the majority of animals, cats do learn rather well from reward. By identifying and manipulating access to things your cat enjoys and values, you can increase …

Pets Corner: My dog is just being friendly!

A client complained to me that she was getting tired of having her dog labelled as a ‘problem’ dog by other dog owners. The issue is that her dog does not want to be friends with every dog she meets and, if pushed, will lunge and bark at some dogs that get into her face, especially if she is on the lead. It is increasingly the case that unless owners have a dog that is universally phlegmatic, happy to engage with dogs of all shapes, sizes and ages, then there has to be a problem with that dog’s temperament…..right? Well no, dogs are individuals and some are just naturally more precious about their personal space. Some are born aloof, some may have had a scary dog encounter when young and now view all other dogs with suspicion, and others may feel unwell. The worst offenders are new puppy owners who believe that socialisation of their hound is best achieved by letting the pup or adolescent dog, jump all over every dog it meets out in …

Pets corner: How to choose and buy a family puppy

A number of you have asked me for advice on how best to choose a puppy or dog to be the family pet. While there can never be absolute guarantees there are a number of golden rules. Following these should help load the search in your favour and it is hoped that being well prepared you won’t be tempted to phone the nearest rescue centre as your dog approaches adolescence! Before reading the list it is a given you can afford to keep a dog and have factored in weekly food costs, veterinary bills, equipment and annual insurance. If you work full time consider whether it is fair to leave a highly social animal on its own for most of the day, dog walkers can be pricey. Dogs need daily exercise, training and play, consider how much time you want or are able to give to this aspect. Of course, a number of people badly want a dog but balk at the thought of a puppy. Let’s be honest, pups are very hard work, especially …